Monday, June 29, 2009

The Albert S. Porter Civic Wrong-Headedness Award

There ought to be an award for civic wrong-headedness and it should be named for Albert S. Porter, the powerful, long-term Cuyahoga County Engineer. He's justly infamous for trying to inflict a system of freeways across the Heights, but I read today that he also once proposed demolishing the magnificent Guardians of Transportation statues on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, so there would be more room for traffic lanes. "Those columns are monstrosities and should be torn down and forgotten," the Cleveland Press quoted Bert Porter as saying in 1976. "There is nothing particularly historic about any one of them. We're not running a May Show here."

Porter objected on the grounds that designating the statues historic would compound and delay the bridge widening project, but other studies demonstrated that extra lanes were not necessary. The Cleveland Press editorialized in their favor, and eventually the Ohio Historic Sites Advisory Board unanimously recommended the Western Reserve Historical Society's nomination of the bridge to the National Register of Historic Places. Porter then had to grudgingly go along and keep the Guardians.

And therefore we still have these terrific icons as part of our thin and ever-threatened Art Deco heritage. Perhaps a model of one of them would be a fitting statuette for the Albert S. Porter Civic Wrong-Headedness Award. (Any candidate you'd like to nominate to receive it today?)

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